there are fears chemical spray drift could be the cause of recent bee deaths in the Riverland of South Australia..
Bees are used by fruit and vegetable growers to pollinate crops and are often brought in from other regions, such as the Adelaide Hills.
Nick Hobbs is an avocado grower in Renmark North who believes that insecticide drifting from another property may be the reason why around 90% of bees on his property have died.
the lifeless insects are decomposing outside their hives on Mr. Hobbs property. From a distance they appear like mulch or forage and are piled around two inches high.
Mr Hobbs says the impact on his avocado production is difficult to measure.
“One part of producing an avocado crop is getting good pollination; if we don’t have the insects in the district I may well not have a good crop.
while he can rely on other methods to pollinate such as wind, his main concern is with apiarist Darren Thompson, who owns the bees.
He faces several thousand dollars in losses and thinks it will take up to three months for his bees to return to strength.
At this stage the pair are not considering legal action.
instead they hope to raise awareness of the issue, so that growers using chemical sprays take into consideration what their neighbours might be doing.
Mr. Thompson says it’s a dent in the ten years of successful pollination in the region, and he’ll still send out his bees to pollinate in the Riverland.
the issue has drawn the eye of Pollination Research and Development Committee.
Chairman Gerald Martin says the industry is funding a pollination manual that will advise growers on how to avoid damage from insecticides.
He believes the main issue is a lack of communication among growers.
“The bottom line is the beekeeper must be very aware about where his bees are going, and what crops are around… and if he’s concerned about any insecticide he got to go talk to them [the grower].
But Mr. Martin says the blame can’t fall completely on apiarists.
“People with orchards who spray plants in any situation need to observe, and if they see bees around they need to think about what the bees are doing.
that could be a big ask for apiarist Darren Thompson, who says there’s potential for up to 30 properties unknowingly spraying while bees are foraging.